You turn to us for voices you won't hear anywhere else.

Sign up for Democracy Now!'s Daily Digest to get our latest headlines and stories delivered to your inbox every day.

Today’s Primary States: North and South Dakota and Arizona

Media Options

North and South Dakota’s civil rights discrimination issues, i.e. gay rights and abortion rights.

Related Story

StoryJul 25, 2011Pioneering Comedian Roseanne Barr on Her Life on Screen as a “Working-Class Domestic Goddess”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: And it is now that we go to North and South Dakota to talk about some issues there. We’re joined by two activists. In South Dakota, Barry Wick is with us of Free Americans Creating Equal Status, also known as FACES, a lesbian and gay rights group in Rapid City, South Dakota. The South Dakota Family Policy Council recently won a victory when the state Legislature became the second state to pass a law rejecting gay marriage. Jane Bovard is also with us, at the Fargo Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion provider in the state, but it doesn’t use local doctors. It flies doctors in from other states. Quite something. Let’s start with Barry Wick in South Dakota. Tell us about the situation there.

BARRY WICK: Well, first of all, we’re sort of recovering from the signing that the governor did. The governor refused to see a representative from the North and South Dakota ACLU and myself, Governor Bill Janklow. And so we were surprised by that, at least not having a chance to sit down and talk. But the focus, I understand, on this program is about the election today, of course, and it’s my expectation that we’re going to see a pretty tight race, but I do believe Buchanan may pull this out. In 1988, Pat Robertson won the state over George Bush, which was, my understanding, the only state that Pat Robertson did win. And so I’m very concerned that it’s going to go very conservative today.

We’ve had a situation here in Rapid City, of course, recently, with the Rapid City Police Department refusing to make an arrest in a very well-witnessed event, an attack on a gay man. And, you know, I don’t know what to do at this particular point other than to write letters and to get other folks to take action in this area.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about how the same-sex marriage ban got passed.

BARRY WICK: Same-sex marriage ban came up last year in a form that literally was a ban, in a bill called House Bill 1184. And remarkably, last year — and I mean “remarkably” — we won in the Senate. It failed to be scheduled last year. Now, this year, they came back with a little, what I would call, softer approach. The ban, if you will, really, more or less, added a definition of “marriage” to the marriage law in South Dakota. Under House Bill 1143, it would just say that a marriage was between a man and a woman. And so, that didn’t have the same effect of wording. And it may not have the same effect in terms of an outright ban on same-sex marriage, because the state of South Dakota — it’s still in the marriage law that South Dakota must recognize marriages from other states. So this may not affect the situation.

However, we still put on a full-court press. We won both committees. We won the House State Affairs Committee, and on a vote of eight to five, they tabled it. And then it went — and then they did a procedure called a “smoke-out,” and they smoked it out onto the floor of the House, where it passed 49 to 18. It went to the Senate committee. We won the Senate committee. They deferred it to the day after the Legislature closed down, so they deferred it to the end, and then — by a vote of four to two. And then the full Senate smoked out the bill back to the floor of the Senate, and they voted on it 26 to 8. And in the last couple days before the vote, our support just completely caved in. It was a blizzard of paper on the desks of all the senators in South Dakota, from all over the United States, having been encouraged by a Focus on the Family radio program to call all the senators in South Dakota and all the stuff that went on there. It was just an unbelievable thing.

AMY GOODMAN: Barry, just to explain to our listeners, when you talk about how there might be a way to get around this because South Dakota still recognizes marriages from other states — 

BARRY WICK: That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, Hawaii did pass — is it what? The first state in the country to allow single-sex marriage?

BARRY WICK: Well, the final decisions — the Supreme Court of the state of Hawaii ruled in a case, Baehr v. Lewin, that the marriage laws in the state of Hawaii were unconstitutional. And so, what’s happened in this situation is that they’re going through the final arguments sometime in the summer this year to determine to make the final arguments — the Supreme Court threw it down on the lower court to make final arguments. And so, it’s likely that we’re going to see same-sex marriage this year, or perhaps next year, in the state of Hawaii. And it’s not been finally decided. Still there are no same-sex marriages in Hawaii or any state. But all the states, there’s up to — I think up to 19 states now that are doing these preemptive strikes on the marriage issue, that will be — you know, they’re trying to get it passed. There have been three states so far that have refused to even hear this kind of a thing.

AMY GOODMAN: Barry, let’s go north for a minute —


AMY GOODMAN: — to North Dakota, to Fargo, to Jane Bovard at the Fargo Women’s Health Organization. Tell us about this very unusual clinic and the situation in North Dakota, where you have some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country, yet you also have a pro-choice governor.

JANE BOVARD: Well, our clinic has been open since 1981. At the time we first opened, there were two other physicians in the state who were providing abortion services. Those doctors have since retired. Both of them are in their seventies. And we have ended up being the only clinic in North Dakota that provides abortion services. We’re on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota, so we’re on the very eastern edge of North Dakota. And we get patients, obviously, from all over the state of North Dakota, but also the whole northwest corner of Minnesota.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about the doctors who perform abortions at your clinic in Fargo?

JANE BOVARD: Well, when we first opened, we hoped that we would have a local doctor after a year or so who would work with us.

AMY GOODMAN: Jane, can you speak up a little? We’re having a little trouble hearing you.

JANE BOVARD: OK. Can you hear me better?


JANE BOVARD: OK. We thought that initially we might be able to have a local doctor who would work with us, but that has not happened. We have had to bring doctors in. One of our physicians has been with us since we opened. He flies his own private plane in from the northern part of Minnesota. And another one of our physicians flies in once a month from North Carolina. And we have been totally unable to get a local physician to provide services. Part of that has to do with the incredible harassment that we have had to live with over the years. We have been the focus of numerous national groups that have come to Fargo, that have locked themselves inside the clinic, that have picketed my home and physicians’ home on a regular basis for at least 10 years. And I think the local physicians feel like: Why should they bother? We’re here. We’ll do their work for them. And they can live a nice, pleasant life without being harassed and still send their patients to us.

AMY GOODMAN: What keeps you going?

JANE BOVARD: Well, I think it’s very obvious there’s a need for our services. We see about 1,500 patients a year. And the patients that do see us are incredibly grateful. And it’s particularly noticeable. We’ve had a terrible winter here. And we have worked, seen patients on two days when there were blizzards, and everything in the whole state was closed down almost, except us. And the strange thing is, our patients show up for their appointments and will come through a blizzard or anything. And they are all so very grateful. They say over and over and over again, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for being open, for being here.” And it’s just very obvious that our service is greatly needed and that we provide something that people want and need. And for that reason, all of the staff feel gratified, and we feel like we really are doing something important and good.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, Jane, we’ve heard a lot about Pennsylvania and its very strict anti-abortion laws in Pennsylvania. But North Dakota, we haven’t heard much about. What are the restrictions on abortion? And how much time do you have to spend at the state Legislature?

JANE BOVARD: Well, the restriction — I think North Dakota probably has the most restrictive laws, in the sense of being most restrictive, but also the number of them. We have had a parental consent law for years. We’ve had an informed consent law that we challenged after Pennsylvania, but went into effect. Our patients have to receive consent 24 hours in advance, plus their parents have to be notified 48 hours in advance of the abortion. We initially were not allowed to do abortions beyond 12 weeks in our clinic. They had to be done in the hospital. We challenged that law, and it was struck down as unconstitutional.

We have just — we have a very, very strong Right to Life group in this state, which is spearheaded by the Catholic Church. And about 25% of the religious population in the state is Catholic. And so, they seem to have these little organizing cells all over the state. And it is not a good state for people with moderate to liberal views to be able to organize. And it’s been difficult. I have been involved in the Legislature since 1975. And last year was the first time in 20 years that I didn’t have to go to the Legislature to testify against an anti-abortion bill. And most of us feel that that’s because we do have a governor who is basically pro-choice. And I think he pretty much said to the powers that be that work in the Legislature, “I don’t want to have to deal with this. Don’t let something get to my desk.” And for the first time in at least 20 years, there was no abortion bill that ended up on the governor’s desk this time.

AMY GOODMAN: How is it you have a pro-choice governor, if you have such vocal anti-abortion sentiment in North Dakota?

JANE BOVARD: Well, because I think most people in the state are pro-choice, and I don’t think that abortion is a big issue for most people. The problem is, is the state is very rural. Fargo has about 60,000 to 70,000 people, and it’s the largest city in the state. And in these small communities, people don’t talk to each other about their personal lives. We see two people from the same town on one day, and they’re absolutely mortified that anyone would ever see them at our facility. People don’t talk about it. So most people don’t know how other people feel, because it’s not an issue that they discuss very much. And yet, when it comes time to vote, they pretty much, I think, vote their conscience. And most people here believe “live and let live” philosophy. And, you know, they’ll say, “Well, I don’t know whether I’d have one or not, but I don’t think that anybody else should tell somebody else what to do.”

AMY GOODMAN: Jane, we have to wrap up, but I did want to get a final comment from your southern neighbor, Barry Wick —


AMY GOODMAN: — as you listen to what’s going on up north. Barry?

BARRY WICK: Well, you know, a lot of what she said about the North Dakota applies to South Dakota. Many of the folks that are gay in South Dakota, are certainly, you know, quiet about their lifestyles. They’re hard-working. They’re taxpaying citizens, and they live very private lives.

JANE BOVARD: And they certainly wouldn’t tell people in their neighborhood.

BARRY WICK: That’s right.

JANE BOVARD: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you both very much for joining us, shedding a little light that’s not being shed by the rest of the media on what’s going on in South and North Dakota. Barry Wick is with Free Americans Creating Equal Status, known as FACES, a lesbian and gay rights group in Rapid City, South Dakota. And Jane Bovard is the administrator at the Fargo Women’s Health Organization. While the clinic is there in Fargo, the doctors who come in come from out of state.

That’s it for today’s edition of Democracy Now! Tomorrow, Bernie Sanders, the founder of the Progressive Caucus. To get a copy of this or any other Pacifica national radio program, contact the Pacifica Archives at 1-800-735-0230. That’s 1-800-735-0230. Our program is produced by Julie Drizin with assistance from Pat Greenfield. Our engineer is John O’Leary. To reach us on the internet, check out our website at, or send email to I’m Amy Goodman. Join me again tomorrow for another edition of Democracy Now!

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation